SPOTLIGHT ON ELLE CHEN, T’19
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
“BOW is a testament to how kickass female run organizations are. The women I met in BOW inspired me to always strive for excellence and up my game..”
November 28, 2021 | By Alina O’Brien
Thinking back, what led you to join BOW?
I transferred to Duke my junior year and wanted to get acclimated to the Duke community by joining great organizations. For me, I already had my IB job offer lined up so joining BOW was more so for the community of women rather than job searching. Everyone I spoke to had resounding high regards for BOW as an organization, and I wanted to be surrounded by a group of supportive and high-achieving women.
What is the most interesting class you took at Duke and do you have any favorite professors?
Tony Brown's Enterprising Leadership class. I took the class my senior year and it was differentiated since it took a more academic approach to analyzing one's soft skills and EQ. It also provided me an opportunity to be reflective on my experiences and evaluate how they fit into my larger goals and values. I still keep in touch with Professor Tony Brown and it made me wish that I had taken more classes in the I&E department during my time at Duke.
Could you please tell us about your experience in investment banking and how it shaped your move to venture capital?
Banking is a great option to launch one's career. It taught me how to have an intense work ethic, pride in my work product, and it hard-grained an attention to detail. Candidly, VC doesn't have a clear path to break into it and the technical skillsets taught in banking are not directly translatable to early-stage VC. I had to intentionally seek out information on VC to break into the industry and study tech trends that were outside of the scope of my banking role. I had done a sophomore internship with one of the top VC fund-of-funds, Greenspring Associates, and that was actually where my interest in VC first burgeoned. All that to say, you can break into VC from IB but it's not going to directly prepare you for VC interviews and it's also not the only path to getting into Venture.
What do you like and dislike about your current job?
I love learning about new trends, working with founders, and feeling like I'm a small part in their journeys in building game-changing companies. However, working with so many founders and in different industries it can sometimes feel like you're a mile wide and only an inch deep.
Do you have any advice for students trying to navigate their interests in finance?
Be intentional about why you want to do finance or what type of finance. I think it's easy to just fall into one of the professional tracks (IB internship, IB, then PE etc.) and while it's a fantastic path, ask yourself why you want to pursue it. I loved my IB experience with Credit Suisse and am so happy I did it, but banking also isn't the "end all be all." So often we're so focused on the goal that we don't take a moment to ask ourselves if we even want that goal. Just because everyone else wants something doesn't mean it's the right option for you.
How did your experience with BOW influence where you are now?
BOW is a testament to how kickass female run organizations are. The women I met in BOW inspired me to always strive for excellence and up my game. I've made some of my best friends through BOW and those women have consistently supported me, pushed me to go for my dreams, and gave me the confidence to pursue alternative career paths.
Is there any book or article that has inspired you?
Book by the same author: "The Road to Character" by David Brooks